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Should they live or die?

If the man sentenced to death for shooting Toni MacDonald's son repeatedly with a 9 mm pistol had been executed immediately after his conviction, the Santa Rosa mother would have supported such swift justice.

However, nearly two decades have passed since the killing of James "Jimmy Mac" MacDonald, a Santa Rosa native and former Piner High School quarterback. The man convicted of the slaying, Regis Dean Thomas, remains on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison.

"I wish it would have been the next day," MacDonald said. "But then as time went by — now I have issues with the death penalty. The cost to the public is astronomical ... And that's never going to change; it just won't."

North Coast's Death Row Inmates

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An initiative to abolish the death penalty qualified Monday for the November ballot, once again thrusting Californians into the debate over capital punishment.

Supporters of the measure, which is called the Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act, contend that the sluggish pace of executions and high costs associated with housing Death Row inmates and overseeing their cases are obstacles to justice.

If the measure passes, men convicted of some of Sonoma County's most heinous crimes would have their sentences converted from death to life without the possibility of parole.

Among them are seven men convicted of killing their own children and wives, of raping girls, of stabbing an elderly woman and of shooting a deputy.

"The only reason I think about Richard Allen Davis at all is because these people who oppose the death penalty keep throwing this in our faces," said Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly Klaas, was kidnapped from her Petaluma home, then raped and strangled. Her body was discarded near an abandoned lumber mill in Cloverdale.

Davis was sentenced to death in 1996. He awaits execution.

Fourteen California Death Row inmates have been executed since 1978, including a man whose execution took place in Missouri. At that pace, it would take 1,800 years to execute 720 people — the number of men and women currently on Death Row.


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